NRC Backs Continued Use of Cesium Chloride Radiation Sources

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission agrees with a staff paper delivered last November that replacing cesium chloride radiation sources is not practical in the near term, and a ban would harm the delivery of medical care, research, and emergency response capabilities. NRC announced the position April 15 and said it has directed its staff to continue enhancing the security of cesium chloride radiation sources and encourages research on alternative chemical forms of cesium-137.

Radioisotopes of cesium chloride are used in cancer treatment. "Banning or phasing-out cesium chloride radiation sources at this time -- before a replacement form or other technology is available -- would be counterproductive because society would lose the many benefits these sources provide in medicine, industry, and research," NRC Chairman Dale E. Klein said. The agency said security controls implemented in recent years have significantly improved the security of these sources, which fall into the International Atomic Energy Agency's Categories 1 and 2, considered most sensitive from a security standpoint by NRC.

On April 28, NRC staff will be in Columbia, S.C., to discuss the results of a two-year regulatory safety performance review at the Westinghouse Nuclear Fuel Plant in Columbia. The review showed the plant operated in a manner that protected public health and safety but identified violations that highlighted two areas for improvement: safety operations and facility support. On April 23, staff will be in Athens, Ala., to discuss the assessment of the Browns Ferry nuclear plant’s safety performance during 2008. The plant, operated by TVA, is on the Tennessee River about 10 miles southwest of Athens. The staff found Browns Ferry's 2008 performance met all NRC safety objectives.

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